A Ghost Story Screen 86 of 18 reviews

A Ghost Story

2017

A Ghost Story Poster
  • Time keeps on slipping into the future in A Ghost Story. It’s a movie that seems to move simultaneously in slow motion and hyperspeed. Individual scenes are inflated with dead air and drag to the point of inertia, but the whole thing flies by with the serene velocity of great short fiction, like a novella that you read in a single sitting because it would seem like a betrayal of the author’s talent and trust to break your concentration.

  • A quietly grand romantic mystery, a metaphysical vision of love that is inseparable from Lowery’s wildly inventive yet controlled way with the very stuff of movies: movement, performance, space, time, light, color, reflections, effects, talk, sound, and, for that matter, silence. The film, which pulls an epigram from Virginia Woolf’s story “A Haunted House,” is a jewel-like novella written directly onto the screen in images.

  • A wondrous, delicate shell of a movie that writer/director David Lowery made quietly and on the cheap after finishing Pete's Dragon for Disney. Its drollness is part of the miraculous balancing act it pulls off in transmitting its huge themes through humble imagery, from the ramshackle rental in which it mostly takes place to the scene in which M tries to numb her grief by eating pie until she's sick. It's a wide-reaching film told in miniature.

  • As spare and precise in its effects as Straub’s novel was lurid and extravagant, this latest feature written and directed by David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) isn’t a horror story exactly, unless you count the horror of permanent solitude. Opening in domestic contentment, moving through personal anguish and ending with a cosmic lament, it’s a simple, wrenching story of love and loss that pries open a window onto eternity.

  • While Lowery occasionally oversteps, underlining the sense of our “protagonist’s” abandonment with an emphatic, pathetic zoom out, his basic premise—the experience of impotently watching the world move on without you, left with nothing but time in which to do so—is a conceptual gut-punch, and the treatment mostly allows him to work around the shortcomings of previous films on which he was lone screenwriter: a lack of humor, overwrought dialogue.

  • People either seem to love “A Ghost Story” or hate it, with no in-between... I loved everything about it, including the scenes I wasn’t sure how to take. I recommend seeing it in a theater because it’s a movie that has as much to say about our perception of time and permanence as it does about love and death. Much of the impact that it has, positive or negative, comes from having to sit there and watch it without interruptions and think about what it’s showing you, and how.

  • There’s a simplicity to this 87-minute wraith of a movie that seems to demand bare-bones description rather than lavish praise. The plot can be summarized in a sentence: After a man dies, his ghost returns to haunt his former home, waiting for some sign from his beloved. Yet in its brief sojourn on the screen, A Ghost Story moves through centuries of geologic time and into the deepest recesses of the human heart.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Imogen Sara Smith
    July 03, 2017 | July/August 2017 Issue (pp. 38-40)

    Whether it is the costume's design, the minimalist gestural performance by Affleck (who, apparently, really was under the sheet the whole time), or a feature-length demonstration of the Kuleshov effect, those cartoon eyeholes come to look as sad, baffled, and reproachful as the eyes of a spurned spaniel.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Laura Kern
    March 03, 2017 | Sundance | March/April 2017 Issue (pp. 64-65)

    The most memorably haunting film I saw during the festival was A Ghost Story, David Lowery's return to somber art-house filmmaking... While [Affleck and Mara] barely speak (the refreshingly existential film relies heavily on atmosphere and contains very little dialogue), the bold, tender scene of them embracing and occasionally kissing in bed that runs nearly silently and borderline voyeuristically for what seems like five minutes is striking evidence of their affection.

  • It’s a rare privilege to see a contemporary American film as ambitious, emotionally honest, and just-plain-breathtaking as David Lowery’s Sundance entry A Ghost Story... Lowery is less interested in telling a traditional ghost story or scaring his audience. His aim here is to explore how the ghost story as a genre and storytelling tradition masks cultural anxieties about time and mortality.

  • Past, present and future co-exist within subjective space: a light on the wall cuts to a shot of the flickering cosmos, a close up on a bed sheet becomes the fabric covering a body in a morgue, pulsating music bridges warm memories and present grief. A Ghost Story, the most singular, ambitious and poignant work I’ve seen so far, is more than the next whatever; it is its own beautiful, serene, and transcendent thing.

  • It's a deliberate abstraction, and as such, it’s easy to appreciate its conceptual audacity and its visual beauty while still feeling remote from its overt sentimentality. But the further it drifts from its initial setup, the more moving it becomes. It’s pushing toward something simple and pure, almost elemental in the way that spaces are haunted by the memories they contain, and how we may leave those spaces but they never leave us.

  • The speed with which these later passages unfold make one miss the slowness of the earlier scenes, when characters made more significant impressions. But that seems to be the point. Lowery wants to imagine how it would feel to lose one's identity and, with it, one's connection to time and space. What a depressing hell that must be, and what an aching film A Ghost Story is.

  • Lowery can't always keep the movie from drifting through the mists of pretension, and the tremulous, too-precious score, by Daniel Hart, is sometimes intrusive. Still, the picture's visual imagery--the cinematographer is Andrew Droz Palermo--is so restlessly poetic that it's hard to turn away. Like a wild, sonorous piano chord struck by someone or something in the middle of the night--where did that come from?--the contemplative aura of A Ghost Story sticks with you.

  • Self-consciously spare and reaching for a grandeur possibly too far beyond its frame, A Ghost Story is nevertheless a film of mesmerizing visual ideas and conceptual integrity. Where director David Lowery’s 2013 breakthrough feature Ain’t Them Bodies Saints felt like a rattling bag of borrowed movie cues and received ideas about American Film Art, this new film (financed from his Pete’s Dragon fortune) confidently inhabits its own ethereal cinematic space.

  • M moves out, others move in, time rewinds and advances and doubles back again, Kesha makes a cameo: The ghost bears witness to it all and even makes a friend, a fellow sheeted spook, haunting the next house over. But after this meeting of wraiths takes a cloying turn, I found it difficult to continue suspending my disbelief. Lowery, in a way, had given up the ghost.

  • It has a playfully arty and surreal style that’s reminiscent of the Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, though it lacks the mysterious physicality and naturalism of that director’s best work, and its what-the-fuckery feels more calculated than organic. Lowery’s picture has won the adoration of many critics here, and while it’s always nice to see offbeat work get embraced, I found A Ghost Story mostly alienating, at times even annoying.

  • An empty exercise in imitative long-take aestheticism, A Ghost Story fills its distractingly round-cornered frame with endless repetitions on a visual gag.

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